The golden retriever is one of the most beloved dog breeds in the world. Their endearing expression, loving spirit, and boundless enthusiasm make them the perfect canine companion. To keep those loving eyes shining and that feathered tail wagging, feed your golden retriever high-quality dog food. To fuel their body and support overall health.
However, an animal as beautiful as a golden retriever cannot be 100 percent perfect. Golden retrievers are susceptible to the following health risks, which should play a role in your food research and selection.
- Orthopedic conditions
- Allergic skin conditions
- Heart disease
We look at our top five best dog foods for golden retrievers of all life stages.
- 1 Our top pick for best dog food for golden retrievers:
- 2 Our second pick for best dog food for golden retrievers:
- 3 Our third pick for best dog food for golden retrievers:
- 4 Our top pick for best puppy dog food for golden retrievers:
- 5 Our top pick for best senior dog food for golden retrievers:
Our top pick for best dog food for golden retrievers:
Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach Salmon and Rice Formula
Our favorite dry dog food for adult golden retrievers is Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach Salmon and Rice Formula. Because this complete and balanced adult dry dog food is easily digested and suits your golden’s every need. Salmon is a high-quality protein that supports the development and maintenance of lean muscle mass, and omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to skin and coat health.
This food contains additional sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in fish meal, sunflower, and fish oil. Fatty acids play a key role as anti-inflammatories, promoting healthy skin and improving joint health and mobility. Golden retrievers who suffer from allergies and arthritis, in particular, can benefit from this high-quality dog food.
WHAT WE LIKE: This product allows golden retrievers with digestive issues to enjoy their food without discomfort, and supports skin, coat, and joint health.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Purina recently altered the prebiotic ratio, and some dogs refused the food. Always consult your veterinarian before introducing new foods, introduce the formula gradually, and first buy the smallest bag available in case your dog turns up their nose.
Our second pick for best dog food for golden retrievers:
Royal Canin Golden Retriever Adult Dry Dog Food
You cannot get more golden retriever-specific than a custom formulated golden retriever food. Royal Canin carefully considered the golden’s nutritional needs and health risks and developed this stellar large-breed adult food.
This research-based dog food pays close attention to calorie content for weight management; omega fatty acids for joints, healthy skin, and hair coat; and a specially designed kibble for dental health. This recipe contains brown rice, chicken, and oats for improved digestibility—perfect for sensitive stomachs.
WHAT WE LIKE: A diet rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) nourishes heart muscle and may protect against some cardiac conditions common to golden retrievers.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Quality dog food doesn’t come cheap, and this brand is expensive and rarely on sale.
Our third pick for best dog food for golden retrievers:
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken and Rice
This Blue Buffalo food suits the golden retriever’s active lifestyle, with high-quality deboned chicken as the top listed ingredient, and quality carbohydrate sources, such as whole-grain brown rice, cracked pearled barley, and oatmeal, that will keep your energetic golden retriever adventure-ready.
Your golden retriever’s immune system receives a boost from antioxidants derived from fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and chelated minerals. With no fillers and byproducts, you’ll know your golden is receiving gold medal-worthy nutrition.
WHAT WE LIKE: Blue Buffalo’s recipe includes flaxseed, a great source of glucosamine and chondroitin for your golden retriever’s joints. A grain-free version is available for goldens with grain sensitivity.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Many pets turn up their noses at the small “Life Source Bits,” which cannot help your golden’s health if they do not eat them.
Our top pick for best puppy dog food for golden retrievers:
Royal Canin Golden Retriever Puppy Food
Large-breed puppies require specific calcium and phosphorous levels, as well as Vitamin D. To ensure appropriate bone development and growth rate. Golden retriever puppies will grow and thrive steadily on this complete, balanced, large-breed puppy food, customized for their breed-specific needs.
This recipe contains highly digestible ingredients, minimizing stool volume, and making bowel movements predictable. This is advantageous for successful housebreaking.
WHAT WE LIKE: Golden retriever puppies’ stomachs can easily be upset from excitement or stress. But this gentle formula’s added antioxidants help ensure reliable digestion and nutrient absorption.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Not much! This puppy food is available only in 30-pound bags, so be sure you know your store’s return policy in the rare instance that the food doesn’t agree with your pup.
Our top pick for best senior dog food for golden retrievers:
Nutro Natural Choice Senior Lamb and Brown Rice Dog Food
When your senior golden is more grey than gold, they will love this moderate protein lamb and whole grain brown rice dog food. Calcium added to the recipe will support your senior golden’s bones and joints. Antioxidants will support their immune system function, and natural fiber will help their digestion.
WHAT WE LIKE: This food contains no GMO ingredients, chicken meal, or byproducts, so you can trust what goes in your golden oldie’s food bowl—and body.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Nutro Senior lamb is unavailable in a large-breed formulation, so the kibbles may be too small for golden retrievers who like to eat quickly.
Switching your golden retriever’s dog food
Your golden retriever should be transitioned to a new dog food over 7 to 10 days by slowly adding more new food, while reducing the amount of the old food. An ideal transition period would look like this:
- First 1 to 2 days — Feed your golden three-quarters of the amount of their old food, and one-quarter new food.
- Days 3 to 4 — Feed one-half each of the new and the old foods.
- The 5th through 7th days — Feed three-quarters of the new food and one-quarter old food.
- Days 7 to 10 — Continue transitioning until your golden retriever is eating 100 percent of the new food.
If at any point your golden experiences vomiting, diarrhea, gas, or other side effects, move back a step in the transition plan, and then progress again once they have stabilized. If signs persist, contact your veterinarian.
Recommendations from veterinarians
Your veterinarian will be happy to provide you with nutritional guidance, and will likely offer several dog food recommendations. Regardless of the brand, your veterinarian will recommend that:
- A choice meets AAFCO’s canine nutrient profile, and has been tested in feeding trials
- Your choice avoids vegetarian or vegan diets, to prevent taurine deficiency, which leads to dilated cardiomyopathy
- A choice contains no artificial colors, flavorings, or preservatives
- You carefully consider the potential risks of feeding a grain-free diet
Foods your golden retriever should eat
Your golden retriever should eat a well-balanced diet of recognizable ingredients, formulated specifically for their life stage—puppy, adult, or senior. Large-breed puppy food ensures the proper ratio of calcium and phosphorus for growing bones. Adult formulas provide extra nutritional support for joints, while senior foods contain quality protein at moderate levels to nourish muscles and help combat age-related deterioration.
Do not assume that the best food for golden retrievers must be a grain-free diet. Most dogs with food allergies are reacting to the protein source in their food, and rarely the grain. Boutique, exotic, and grain-free diets have been called into question over the past few years for their possible role in the rising cases of dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. If you are concerned about your golden retriever’s risk of nutritionally related heart disease, seek veterinary guidance.
Foods your golden retriever should not eat
Resist those pleading eyes, and avoid feeding your golden retriever human foods—especially greasy, salty, or sugary snacks that can be hard on their digestive system, and can cause painful pancreatitis.
Never feed your golden retriever grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chocolate, avocados, or macadamia nuts, which are all highly toxic to dogs. Also, be aware of any product that may contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can lead to liver failure.
Weight management for golden retrievers
If there’s one thing your golden retriever loves more than you, it’s probably food, but their foodie nature and adorable expression make them vulnerable to weight gain. Learn how to identify a healthy weight, regularly compare them to a body condition chart, and adjust their food intake accordingly.
- Caloric needs can be highly individualized—ask your veterinarian how many calories your golden should consume daily.
- Golden retrievers are a sporting breed, originally bred as hunting retrievers, so they need lots of exercise to maintain health.
- Physical activity helps delay the onset of arthritis and can reduce hip dysplasia severity.
- Maintaining a lean body weight has been proven to add years to a dog’s life.
Nutritional requirements for golden retrievers
Any food that meets AAFCO standards for your golden’s various life stages should provide adequate nutrition levels for major requirements, such as protein, fats, and carbohydrates, in addition to vitamins and minerals.
Although taurine deficiency has been linked to dilated cardiomyopathy in golden retrievers, dietary supplementation is not advised.
Golden retrievers bring joy to everyone they meet and radiate happiness and affection. When you feed your golden retriever the best food possible, you are providing more than a bowl of the best dog food. You also are giving them a longer and healthier life, full of memories with their favorite person—you.